From October 2020 to May 2021, the first ever Student Digital Champions were employed at Queen’s University. This successful partnership between the Students’ Union and Centre for Educational Development provided vital support ‘to students by students’ at a challenging time in the education sector. It demonstrated the benefit of recruiting part-time interns to support the work of the Students’ Union but also the value of working closely with staff from an educational background to support and enhance digital learning across the institution. It was a rewarding role for all involved.
The three Student Digital Champions, each very excited about their role, engaged in a number of meaningful initiatives and made a significant contribution to supporting learners and their educational experience during Covid and the rapid move to remote digital teaching. They worked hard to reach out to students, to channel the student voice and showcase good practice as well as reveal how we could also do things differently.
Example digital champion activity included:
digital drop-ins and digital toolkit sessions to provide 1-1 advice on digital platforms, tools and technologies (for both undergrads and postgrads)
feedback on the digital environment using survey methodology and reporting of key findings to senior management
creation of digital resources and social media campaigns around key issues for students such as keeping motivated online, fake news, keeping safe online, productivity and digital wellbeing
production of a student podcast series (aptly named ‘From a distance’) which focused on topics such as building learning communities, peer mentoring and getting exam ready
digital forums held to examine the impact of online learning on the experience of international students
support for Queen’s teaching staff in different Schools to facilitate digital teaching with technology (e.g., use of break out rooms, tech support in a poster session held in a virtual meeting space Gather Town)
promotion of the annual national student Digital Experience Insights survey (e.g., through Queen’s radio, ‘clubs and socs’)
development of a Discord Study Space to address the lack of student community
articulation of the importance of accessibility in education through video methodology
exploration of interactive teaching methods with staff across Faculties
collaboration with senior Information Services staff and Student Reps to input into a digital transformation roadmap
acted as a key student user group in a pilot of the new audio/visual tech in teaching spaces that will support blended, hybrid and hyflex learning and the digital environment at Queen’s
liaised with other Higher Education Institutions and positively influenced the work of other Student Digital Champions.
To showcase some of this work, here are some example resources that they created in the slideshow below. They comprise posters created for social media campaigns and targeted tips of the week. Topics covered include:
Keeping well online (a social media campaign from a digital wellbeing week – named BREATHE).
Top digital tools (a poster on their top 3 digital tools)
Staying motivated online
Canvas tips (student advice on using the digital platform).
Here is a podcast created to support students in online exams and a short video shared on social media on the importance of recognising fake news.
I recently caught up with Xin Yi Heah and she reflected on her time within the Queen’s Student Digital Champion role.
“This role lets you dive deep into the ins and outs of digital skills like never before, and being a student digital champion means I was able to help other people benefit from this knowledge and troubleshoot modern-day learning on online platforms. The duality of this role not only helped me understand and empathise with the digital challenges faced by students and staff, but also prompted me to explore means of creating resources for students to hone digital skills and provide them with support. It also really doesn’t mean you have to know everything, because you learn so many new things along the way! I have seen my skills continue to develop ever since this role. It is truly the most rewarding role because I was able to work with so many amazing people who are all dedicated to enhancing digital literacy and skills across the University”.
The Queen’s Student Digital Champions 2020-21 made a significant contribution to the student educational experience in what was an extraordinary (or ok yes an ‘unprecedented’) period for us all. They were committed to represent the student voice and shape the digital future at Queen’s. They made connections to students when there was no real learning community in the digital space; they brought fresh and practical solutions helping to provide more stable online communities where students could thrive and learn in a new digital world.
Simply put, they raised the profile of digital at Queen’s. Thank you Aimee Bell, Xin Yi Heah and Theo Burton for the support you gave to our students in 2020/21 and for the incredible and rewarding staff-student partnership!